Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 coming this year, or next–sharper screen, longer battery life
WIndows of the mind
Rumor has it that Microsoft will soon be unveiling the Surface Pro 5, as early as May 2016.
There’s limited info right now, but basically it sounds like a snazzier version of the Surface Pro 4. While the SP 4 ran about five hours with video, the SP 5 could get up to 7. That’s pretty good for a machine that’s slated to have a sharp-as-a-razor 4k display. The screen will not be any larger, though, you’ll still need to get the Surface Book if you want a larger screen (13.5 in. vs. 12.3 in.).
The Surface Pro 5 will either continue using Intel’s Skylake processor, or move on to the next iteration, the Kaby Lake.
Supposedly, the pen will be rechargeable, a welcome trend away from batteries.
Hopefully, the new Surface Pro 5 will also iron out the problems that have plagued a lot of Surface Pro 4s and Surface Books. That would be a nice coat of “fresh paint” for customers.
Surface Book 2 also in the works
Surface Book 2: The Sequel has also been greenlighted, possibly with a June, 2016 premiere or maybe it will be 2017. That’s the problem with rumors–they have no consistency or reliability. Let’s hope these new devices do.
It would make more sense for it to be 2017, so that the new Kaby Lake processor is ready for rollout. That might edge these machines into becoming the souped-up powerhouses they could be.
Or, it could be as soon as June, 2016, to coincide with a Windows 10 update.
Microsoft has a part of its site dedicated to Surface art and artists. This is one of the videos from that, featuring Mulga, an illustrator/designer/muralist.
Microsoft recall of power cords for Surface Pro 1-3
Due to overheating concerns, Microsoft issued a voluntary recall of AC power cords for the Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3, if they were sold before March 15, 2015 in the U.S., and July 15, 2015, anywhere outside the U.S. The recall was announced on Jan. 21, 2016.
According to the company, the overheating can be triggered by cords that are tightly wound or bent, which can get damaged that way and become a fire hazard. They stress that the problem affects only a very few users. But, for safety, they recommend that you no longer use your existing cord, regardless if it appears damaged or not.
To fill out the form to get your replacement cord, go to the Microsoft page here.
The new Surface Pro power cords don’t have this issue, and they match the ones sold after March 15th, 2015 in the U.S. and July 15, 2015 elsewhere.
The recall does not apply to the power brick, which is the power supply, but only to the AC power cord, the part that attaches to the electrical outlet. Here’s a photo:
This problem and the recall ONLY affect the Pro, Pro 2, and Pro 3, not the Surface 3, Surface RT, Surface Pro 4, or Surface Book, and not to cords for docking stations for the Pro, the Pro 2, or Pro 3.
Microsoft says users should safely dispose of or recycle their existing cords in accordance with local regulations. You don’t return the cord to Microsoft, you just request a new one. All replacement cords will come directly from Microsoft. They will issue one new one per device.
Again o get your new AC power cord, go to this page on the Microsoft site.
If you have an affected Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro 3, please stop using your existing power cord, dispose of or recycle it safely, and send go to the Microsoft recall page to order a new one.
Surface Pro 4 Review: a go-anywhere drawing solution
by Tablets for Artists
Type of Tablet
The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book (read our review) have arrived on the scene to a great deal of fanfare. Some artists who already have a Surface Pro 3 may be wondering if it’s worth getting the 4. Others may be trying to decide between the SP4 and the pricier Book.
The SP4 can become a laptop when you add the optional (purchased separately) Type Cover; it’s a tablet-first device, whereas the Book is a laptop-first device. The Pro 4 and the Book have the same screen resolution, a very high 271 ppi, though the Book’s screen is larger. Both the SP4 and Book are built from magnesium alloy and come in just one color, a silvery gray, though the SP4’s Type Cover adds a splash of color, with 6 colors. Only the Onyx (black) has the fingerprint sensor, though, to give you that Get Smart cred.
UPDATE: There have been many reports of short battery life and other issues and this takes a bit of glow off the Surface Pro 4 review, which would otherwise be very positive. The last updates issued by Microsoft were Dec. 2 and Dec. 17, which fixed some issues but not the power management. They did suggest a workaround, which you can read here, which is to put it into hibernate instead of sleep mode. Also, Windows Hello facial recognition drains the battery and may be to blame for the issues. You can say bye-bye to Hello by turning it off in Settings> Accounts > Sign-in options. Will be following these issues and updating further.
UPDATE #2: Microsoft issued a Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book firmware update on Jan. 27, 2016. This one improves battery charging, Bluetooth, and the fingerprint sensor. Apparently it improves the sleep bug (the battery drain issue) but does not completely fix it. You should receive a notification on your device, and follow instructions. They should automatically install, but if you’re doing it manually, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for updates and follow the steps.
UPDATE #3: Microsoft released a slew (16!) updates in April, 2016, which apparently have corrected issues with screen flickering and waking up from sleep or hibernation, and other issues. Guess the early adopters were really beta testers. Anyway, it’s considerably improved. Note that they do not install all at once after you update.
Windows 10 Pro Display: 12.3″ Digitizer: N-Trig Screen Resolution: 2736 x 1824 pixels (271 ppi) Processor: 6th-generation Intel Core i5; i7; entry-level model has Intel Core M3 RAM: 4 GB, 8GB, or 16GB Hard Drive: models with 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and1 TB Ports: one USB 3.0, MicroSD slot Core M3 model is fanless; others have hybrid cooling system Kickstand allows posing at any angle Glass trackpad 40% larger than SP3 8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front (SP3 had 5MP for both) new Surface Pen and nib kit included Pen has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity graphics are all integrated, no discrete Keyboard has fingerprint sensor (only the Onyx/black color) weight 1.76 lbs. (786 g) tablet only; 2.44 lbs. including Type Cover and pen
What’s in the Box
Surface Pro 4 Surface Pen Power Supply Quick Start Guide Safety and warranty documents
Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Pro 3
As you can see, the Surface Pro 4’s screen is a bit bigger; its screen resolution is quite a bit higher, and it still manages to be a little lighter. Microsoft’s PixelSense screen is a mere 400 microns thick and uses Gorilla Glass 4; the Surface Pro 3 used Gorilla Glass 3 and did not have PixelSense, which pushes the optics closer to the screen. The footprint is the same on the SP4 and SP3, as is the 3:2 aspect ratio, which resembles a sheet of drawing paper. This aspect ratio, which emulates the Golden Mean, is generally better to draw on than the 16:9 tablets. The pen now magnetically snaps to either side of the tablet, instead of using a pen loop.
There is also no Start button on the tablet bezel in the SP4; there was in the SP3, but it’s less useful in Windows 10.
Here is a Surface Pro 3 vs. Surface Pro 4 comparison chart.
Surface Pro 4
Surface Pro 3
11.5 by 7.93 by 0.33 inches
11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches
SP4: 7% thinner
SP4: 5% larger
N-trig, 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
N-trig, 256 levels of pressure sensitivity
SP4: 4x as pressure-sensitive
2736 x 1824 (4,990,464 pixels)
2,160 x 1,440 (3,110,400 pixels)
SP4: 60% more pixels
Screen ppi (pixels per inch)
SP4: 27% denser
Intel gen. 6
Intel gen. 4
SP4: 30% faster
Weight (tablet only)
1.69 lbs, 767g - Core M 1.73 lbs, 786g - i5 and i7
1.76 lbs, 798 g
SP4: slightly lighter (4% for Core M, 2.5% for Core i5and i7)
Surface Pro 4 with Surface Pen
The Surface Pro 4 with i5 with 128 or 256 GB of flash storage would be fine for most artists who use Photoshop or the whole Adobe Suite. But if you use really resource-intensive programs, then the i7 is better. For instance, Autocad 3D requires the i7.
The Book has an option with dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics, good for gaming or getting a boost in Photoshop performance.
9 hours of video for the 8GB Ram i5 with 256 GB storage
At 1.76 pounds, it’s very portable. If you add on the Type Cover (.64 lbs./292 g) and pen (21 g) then you get about 2.43 lbs., still not a bad load.
The new Surface Pen for Surface Pro 4 (see it on Amazon) snaps to the sides of the tablet via magnets, unlike the Surface Pro 3 and earlier Surfaces which had a pen loop. The pen is much improved, now enabling 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Not only that, but it has its own nib kit , which has 4 tips that simulate artist pencil leads of HB (preinstalled), H, 2bB B, and a fine-point pen. The nib kit does not come with the pen that comes with the tablet. You can buy it separately (it’s inexpensive) or, if you buy an additional pen, the kit is included. The pen that comes with the Surface Pro 4 has a silver barrel, but the additional pens come in other colors.
The pencil leads have some friction and give some bite, somewhat like drawing on paper. Another boon is that you can buy a nib kit if your nibs wear down or get lost. The pen also has an eraser tip that feels cushiony. The previous pen had two buttons, one of which activated the eraser, but this new one has just one, which can open OneNote or Cortana, or take a screenshot if you double-click the button. Microsoft says the new pen has reduced latency–perhaps it won’t go into sleep mode when not touching the screen, so will be faster. The digitizer is N-trig, connected by Bluetooth, and takes an AAA battery that Microsoft says lasts a year. The pen itself (the barrel, not talking about inking) comes in 5 colors.
new Surface Pen nib kit
Compare this to the previous Surface Pen, which delivered 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. Its single, preinstalled nib would wear out quickly and was not replaceable, forcing you to buy another pen. So if you’re ready to buy one, the new Surface Pen is the right choice. The new pen is backward compatible with the Surface Pro 3, though you’d still get 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, not the 1,024 of the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.
For some images and discussion of drawing with the Surface Pro 4 pen, and a comparison with Wacom pens, please see this review of the Surface Book. Here’s an image of the line from one of the pen tips. You can change the canvases as well as the brushes in your art program to get different effects with the different tips.
While this is cool, there are many, many brushes available for Photoshop and you can get any effect. Depending on your screen, though, you might not get the little “bite” of friction that the pencil nibs offer.
Surface Pro 4 Type Cover
The Type Cover has been redesigned and is also backward-compatible with Surface Pro 3. It has dedicated buttons for Windows shortcuts, media controls, and screen brightness. The Type Cover comes in 6 colors, and is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor. The keys are now spaced apart and have better travel for faster and more comfortable typing. The keys are sturdier than on the last version, and the keyboard has a better magnetic connection to the tablet part. The trackpad with 5-point multitouch is 40% larger, and now made of glass. You can fold back the cover so you can still use the tablet while it’s connected, or fold it over the tablet to protect the screen. The keys are backlit.
Only the Onyx (black) Type Cover uses Windows Hello, a fingerprint ID system that lets you log in to the computer and shop in the App Store. It costs a bit more than the non-fingerprint ID Type Covers (there is also a non-fingerprint-ID Onyx Type Cover). The Onyx fingerprint Type Cover can be pre-ordered from the Microsoft Store here.
The Surface Dock is optional. It can be used with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book. It provides two additional ports: four USB 3.0 ports, and two 4K-capable DisplayPort outputs. The slender Surface Book lacks an Ethernet port, but the dock provides one. This can come in handy when traveling in places without steady Wi-fi.
new Surface Pen and nibs faster processor many configurations hybrid cooling system (or fanless on the Core M) quieter
Still not ideal as a laptop replacement, due to top-heaviness Opinions divided on N-trig
If you like N-trig, then this is a very promising computer with great specs for speed, a display that’s high-resolution with high contrast for deep blacks, lightweight, and it can do double duty as a laptop, though the Type Cover doesn’t feel as solid as a traditional laptop. For now, though there are still battery drain issues to be fixed, the workaround should provide release. Even taking that into account, this Surface Pro 4 review is mostly positive, and this sleek machine opens a new chapter in the Surface Pro story.
The new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is set to be released this October 26. It comes with an upgraded Surface Pen. The specs have been released, and the new pen, which is still N-trig, now delivers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. It uses Bluetooth, as did the previous pen, and takes an AAAA battery. The back end functions as an eraser. Most interesting is that it has a tip kit with four tips corresponding to artists’ pencils: HB, B, H, and 2H. Looks like Microsoft is really going after the Wacom artist’s market. The tip kit is sold separately, but comes with any additional pens you buy. The pen no longer needs a loop to attach to the tablet as in the Surface Pro 3; it attaches to the Pro 4 via a magnet. The latency is reduced, making it less laggy. The pen’s accelerometer knows when you’re not touching the tablet and saves the battery; Microsoft claims the battery can last up to 18 months.
Surface Pen tip kit
You can use the new pen on Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and the new laptop, the Surface Book. We’ll be covering more developments.
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1: a business laptop with an arty bent
by Tablets for Artists
(Note: also called 2nd-gen. Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad 12)
Type of tablet
Convertible (or hybrid) laptop/tablet PC Ultrabook that comes with Windows 8.1 Pro, 64 bit.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1 is business in the front, arty when bent back. By appearances, it’s a business machine. “Suits” shuffling spreadsheets would be happy working in Office Suite on this unremarkable-looking black rectangle.
But use it as a tablet, and artists can get real mileage out of it. It’s a definite rival to the Surface Pro 3 (read our Surface Pro 3 review) for creatives who want a real laptop while still getting art features. The ThinkPad Yoga offers a Wacom digitizer with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and Windows 8.1 allows you to run full programs such as Photoshop as well Metro apps. The screen flips 360 degrees into four positions: laptop, tablet, tablet with stand, and tent.
12.5-inch Full HD touchscreen Intel Core i7-4500U (there is i5 model too) 8GB memory/256GB SSD 12.5 in Full HD IPS (1920 x 1080) 10-finger multi-touch support 4-in-1 card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC) 2 USB 3.0 (1 charge) Mini HDMI Lenovo OneLink dock port (dock not included) Dimensions: 12.46 x 8.70 x 0.76 in (316.48 x 220.98 x 19.30 mm) Weight: 3.49 lbs (1.58 kg)
It’s a laptop, so “handedness” is the same as on any laptop.
The pen that comes with the ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1
The pen, which fits into the side chassis, is pretty flimsy and you would probably want some others. Several artists and note-takers recommend the Fujitsu T5000 pen for use because its hard tip meets well with the screen, it has two buttons and an eraser, and is solidly built.
Most tablet PC pens will work with the ThinkPad Yoga. The N-trig pen for Surface Pro 3 will not.
The screen connects to the keyboard via a stiff hinge that feels more durable than a lot of convertibles that swivel instead of bend into the four “poses.” (With other tablet PC laptops, the keyboard gets sandwiched into the middle in tablet mode.) In tablet mode, the keyboard ends up on the back. Its innovative “lift and lock” mechanism makes the keyboard retract and lock, so pressing it by accident while you’re holding the tablet won’t do anything. The trackpad doesn’t lock, so you might click on it if you’re holding the computer in your hand. At 3.5 lbs., you probably won’t hold it in one hand all that much.
While it’s a boon that the screen is slightly bigger than the Surface Pro 3, the widescreen of the Yoga with its 16:9 aspect ratio (1920 x 1080p) isn’t always welcomed. The SP 3 has a 2:3 “golden mean” ratio, more like a piece of paper or an iPad. (The Surface Pro s 1 and 2 are also widescreen).
I’m nearly always zoomed in when drawing, or else I’m drawing something smaller than the screen, so I tend to forget the screen size while I’m drawing, but aesthetically I prefer the 2:3 aspect ratio. The widescreen can feel awkward when drawing in portrait mode. The 16:9 size has some benefits–it’s the perfect proportions to watch a movie.
At 3.5 lbs., this is portable, but for those of us who feel weighed down by that much, it may be something that you don’t want to carry over your shoulder for long periods. Still, as far as travel, its dimensions are pretty compact, and you can watch it on a plane (even in economy class).
The Corning Gorilla Glass is comes installed with a matte screen protector that is supposed to stay on. While I’m uncertain if removing it would void the warranty, it might, and you should consult the warranty co. if you want to remove it. But I and other artists think it provides a nice “bite” or resistance which benefits drawing.
The screen is not as bright as the Surface Pro 3. The matte surface, being less reflective than glossy gives better visibility when outdoors or near a window. While looking at art on a bright screen is great, while working, keeping the brightness lower not only saves battery, but saves your eyes. But if you like a really bright display, this might not be for you.
The keyboard is nice and is backlit.
One drawback of the Yoga is that in tablet mode with the keyboard on the back in a locked position, if you’re using Photoshop or some other program with keyboard shortcuts, you’re going to have to open the keyboard to unlock it, or use a Bluetooth keyboard or the onscreen keyboard (these can be a pain when there are key combinations you have to press). It’s an issue with any convertible tablet PC, but with this one it’s a bit more of an issue.
There is some edge jitter, and some parallax (space between the cursor and pen) as with any Wacom digitizer. One Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1 review said that the calibration of multitouch and pen was off. I don’t use multitouch much and prefer to shut it off while using the stylus, but this has 10 points of multitouch and you can do gestures.
Drawing on the Yoga is a much better experience than on my Lenovo ThinkPad X201 tablet, where any stylus I use leaves sort of a thin trail coming off every line (though the computer itself is a workhorse that has been going for four years). So it seems Lenovo has worked out this digitizer issue.
No more ghosts. They also say they have solved previously reported screen ghosting issues as of July 2014, so you can check your manufacture date on the box or bottom of the computer to see if you got an updated one.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1 has a rugged exterior. It weighs about a pound more than the Surface Pro 3 (.36″ thick) and is thicker (.75″ thick), but still under an inch thick.
The Yoga is probably a better choice than a detachable-keyboard tablet like a Surface Pro if you do a lot of typing. Using a Bluetooth keyboard that connects via a hinge, like on the Surface Pro, can lead to issues such as the cursor skipping around, so heavy typing can be a headache. A full laptop is more versatile all around-work machine, though heavier to carry around.
Though Lenovo says up to 8, it’s more like 5. 30-day standby.
Wacom digitizer and pen, 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Solid state drive gives fast bootup. Durable magnesium alloy frame. Nice, backlit keyboard. Linux-friendly, according to a review. Comes with port to OneLink Dock.
Rear-facing heat vents blow heat into your lap if you hold it in your lap. One Lenovo Yoga 2 in 1 review called it a “heat sink.” But putting any laptop on a soft surface isn’t a good idea. Can’t use keyboard in tablet mode. A bit heavy to carry at 3.5 lbs. Battery life not that great, about 5 hours, longer if just light use. Trackpad a bit noisy/flimsy.
Most reviews are really positive. One Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 in 1 review said it was the best laptop the writer had ever used (and they had used a lot), others said though imperfect, said it’s the best of the convertibles, while another complained of the heat blowing into his or her lap. Many praised its solid build. Some prefer the matte screen while others don’t. See more reviews on Amazon.
This is a good, durable overall computer that can last for years and act as a main typing computer as well as nearly a Cintiq. (The difference between 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and 2,048 are not perceptible). We think it’s a good choice for those who want to both draw and type, who like a matte screen and don’t mind that the laptop weighs 3.5 lbs. and isn’t exactly a looker. The pressure sensitivity works well.
The Thinkpad Yoga 2 in 1 doesn’t heavily improve on other tablet PC laptops with Wacom digitizers, but it’s one that’s out now, has no major known problems, will receive updates, has plenty of storage, and the 4 positions it yoga-bends into are pretty useful at times. The upside of this is that when you carry a laptop, it’s much more protected than a plain tablet is, you don’t need to buy a fancy case or keyboard, and you can run full programs such as Photoshop.